Tag Archive: Book Review


Teaching Pynni has been hard. She balks, fights, pouts, whines, sulks, mumbles, cries. In essence, she acts completely unlike her usual, giggly, smiling, easy-going, happy self. It has been baffling and frustrating and stressful to say the very least. I’ve wondered if I’ve done the right thing for her. Kindergarten may have been its own special kind of hell and may have damaged her self-esteem, but at least she was happy (except for that pesky crying during homework, OH, and when she begged to stay home because school made her cry).

Right, so I would get to a point during school days that I would begin rethinking this homeschooling thing for her, but then I would begin the litany of reasons that I started homeschooling. That very list of reasons that pushed me into the deep end of childhood education in the first place. Then, I would see that I just had to figure out what is up with her attitude about school.

Reading was difficult, and can still be so. I’d decided that her issue was either physiological or sensory in nature relating to her vision and have set the wheels in motion to get her tested or assessed or whatever is needed.

Then in a flash of brilliance I realized something. I, the teacher, was struggling teaching her the math curriculum we’ve been plodding through. I chose Saxon Math, and it is wonderful. For Chi. Mister Cut-and-Dried, Mister Point-a-to-Point-b, Mister Get-in, Get-done and Get-out. Why did I think Pynni was doing fine with this boring, dry curriculum when I was dreading teaching her math every day? And why did I think that she would be looking forward to much of anything when that core subject, that makes up half of her school time, was so stinking boring?

Pynni is NOTHING like her brother. Pynni needs colors and pictures and glitter! Pynni needs arts and crafts and projects! Pynni needs stories and crayons and PAINTS!

So I returned to the Homeschool store and asked those wonderfully informative, approachable people if there were some workbooks I could use to supplement Saxon Math 1. It was very pricey and I’m not willing to dump it until after the school year. HA! RIGHT!

“Of course, there are workbooks!” they said. “BUT, you should look at this,” handing me The Life of Fred. “And maybe you should look at this,” handing me Mathematical Reasoning. Mathematical Reasoning is a full curriculum in and of itself, but it is presented in bold, colorful, and fun workbook pages. “This,” I thought to myself, “screams Pynni.” But it’s a $40 book and I’ve already spent so much on the Saxon Math course.


So I check out The Life of Fred. It, too, is a complete curriculum, but it’s sub $20 for one year of study. It is, now see if you can wrap your brain around this, literary math. It takes a literary approach to teaching math. It tells the story of Fred, a five year old college calculus professor. He encounters math in everyday life.

The author, Dr. Stanley F. Schmidt, writes, “When I taught at the high school and college levels, the most frequent question that other math teachers and I got was, “Why are we studying this stuff?” In this series, every piece of mathematics first happens in Fred’s everyday life, he needs it, and then we do it. Everything is motivated–everything from introducing the number zero in this book (as the number of elephants that Fred owns) to hyperbolic trigonometric functions were we find three uses for them on page 250 of Life of Fred: Calculus when Fred and the 8’2″ lion enter an all-you-can-eat buffet.”

The first lesson, in this book they are called chapters, introduces you to Fred, his home (his office at his place of employment), and his best friend (a “happy meal” toy named Kingie). He wakes up at 5am and wants to go for a run but it’s too dark, and in February it won’t get light until 7am. TWO WHOLE HOURS! He proceeds to have a conversation about this fact with his friend and through this teaches the first lesson in addition (5+2=7). The chapter ends in a “Now it’s your turn” sort of way and asks 4 questions that require Pynni to think about that equation in a few different ways and then to notice that both 5+2 and 2+5 are equal to 7.

Pynni and Fred: Fast Friends

It was brilliant. It is funny, concise, and entertaining. Pynni laughed all the way through and answered all the questions. The following day we did the Mathematical reasoning pages that most resembled this lesson. She did all her work in marker and used a separate marker for each different worksheet. She completed 8 of them. She spent over half an hour doing math, two days in a row, and complained not one single time. She was smiling when it was done and completed the rest of her school day in record time with minimal whining about reading (although still periodically complaining about her eyes).

I feel like I’ve won something HUGE with this change-up. I can’t stop smiling about it. I’m excited for school on Monday with Pynni!

Anybody want to buy Saxon Math 1 plus manipulatives? I know where you can get one for cheap.

I bought my first homeschooling materials today. I am beyond excited.

If you had asked me three years ago whether I would ever consider homeschooling, I would have said, “Hell, no!” I thought people who homeschooled were crazy, and not live-in-a-“compound”-with-arsenals-on-the-fringe kind of crazy. Seriously-a-glutton-for-punishment kind of crazy. “Not me.” I thought. “Never me.”

Then, as school has gotten harder and Chi has struggled more and more, I began to see that, at the very least, I might have to homeschool through middle school. I’ve said it before, but I will say it again, the middle schools in our district are crap. CRAP! (Our elementary school is NOT crap and we have issues.)

Now, after the awful year that has been 2010-2011, I can barely see doing it any other way.

I’ve been researching what curricula I want to use and I’ve made some decisions. (Truthfully? I’ve made ALL the decisions. I KNOW how I’m going to start, but I’m trying to pace myself. heh)

So today, I purchased Writing with Ease by Susan Wise Bauer and  the workbook The Complete Writer by the same. I will also be using First Language Lessons for the Well-trained Mind by Jessie Wise. These two women are former teachers who specialize in home education consulting and they have some really great philosophies on why so many high school graduates have little to no idea how to write persuasively or creatively, and not just with grammatical accuracy.

The Future

Susan Wise Bauer writes “…In an effort to solve the problem of poor writing skills, schools are giving longer and more complex assignments to younger and younger children. They theory is that the more writing children do, the better they’ll get at it; as one proponent of it recently told me, “Give the children high-intrest assignments and have them write, write, write and revise, revise, revise.” First and second graders are told to write journal entries; third and fourth graders are assigned book reports and essays. Fifth and sixth graders are given research papers.

Meanwhile, writing skills continue to decline. And for the last ten years, at education conferences all across the country, I have heard the same refrain from the parents of these children: My child hates to write.”

Now, Chi hates to write, but he has ALWAYS hated it. He never liked to color or draw with any type of media. But Pynni LOVES to write. She draws, and colors, and writes words and letters and her name. When there is no pressure to write any one thing in particular, she will spend all day drawing in one manner or another. Even with all of that, she has developed a dislike for writing as pertains to school. Who wouldn’t, though?

She has barely learned to form the letters semi-correctly before she is asked to write SENTENCES. Not just words. She can’t tell you what a subject or a noun or a predicate or a verb is. She can’t SPELL the words they are asking her to write. The homework is generally something like: write a story about what you did this weekend. IN KINDERGARTEN. And now, I see, that maybe, just maybe, some of Chi’s dislike of writing (and now Pynni’s) is that they are asking TOO much TOO early in his development.

I look forward to starting over in this with him. I look forward to working through this curriculum (it’s very scripted and I NEVER thought I would be looking forward to something like that) and giving my kids the tools to be competent writers, and hopefully, at the very least, not hate writing.

I’ll let you know how this goes and what I think after we actually get into it.

Hmmm, now on to what to use for math.